men must do anything for women: Arnaut Daniel’s medieval protest

Raimon Berenguier IV

In early thirteenth-century France, Raimon Berenguier IV, the Count of Provence, described a hundred women in a desperate situation:

Friend Sir Arnaut, a hundred ladies of rank
go overseas and halfway to the Holy Land,
they are unable to complete their voyage
nor return home directly by any means
but through you, by this condition:
you let out a fart generating such wind
that the ladies will come to be saved.
Will you do it, or not? I would like to know.

{ Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage
van outramar e son a meça via,
e non podon acomplir lor viage
n’endrez tornar per nuilla ren qe sia
se per vos non, qe es per tal coven
c’un pez fassaz de qe·s movan tal ven
que las domnas vadan a salvamen.
Farez l’o non? Q’eu saber lo volria. } [1]

The Count’s friend Arnaut Catalan was dedicated to serving women. He responded:

Lord Count, it is my habit always
to defend ladies concerning love.
Although farting is not to my liking,
I will do so, for if I did not,
I would be badly lacking toward ladies.
And I assure you that, if by other means
they could not be saved,
after the fart I would try fully shitting myself.

{ Seingner En Coms, en ai un tal usage
c’ades manteing domnas en drudaria.
Si tot lo peiz no m’en ven d’agradage,
eu lo farei, qe s’eu no lo faria
falliria vas domnas malamen.
E dic vos ben qe, si per altramen
no podion anar a salvamen,
apres lo peiz toz mi concagaria. }

Men must do whatever is necessary to help women, no matter how degrading to men such action is. Some may raise practical objections:

Friend Sir Arnaut, you speak very badly
and will receive great blame from the men
that must transport so many pleasant, comely hearts
by ass-wind to the holy ground of Syria.

{ Amics N’Arnauz, trop parlaz malamen
per lo gran blasme qe n’aurez de la gen
qe vol passar tan gen cors avinen
a vent de cul en terra de Suria. }

Imagine a man farting and shitting so prodigiously as to drive a sailboat from the middle of the Mediterranean all the way to the Holy Land. That’s a crappy way to sail. But all that matters is that women get what they want. Arnaut Catalan explained:

Lord Count, it is much better by a hundred times
that I should fart than so many lively, pleasing hearts
should come to grief through foolish principle,
for I can wash myself, however much I shit myself.

{ Seingner En Coms, molt es miellz per un cen
q’eu fasa·l peiz qe tan gai cors plazen
se perdison per fol enseingnamen,
qe·m puosc lavar qan cunqigaz me sia. }

Men face an enormous burden of performance in serving women. Men are expected to go down in sinking ships to save women. At the same time, men are socially unappreciated and face acute hardships and injustices. What is to be done?

Men must support other men who show the strength and knowledge to say no to women. Consider the case of Lady Ena and Bernart de Cornilh in southern France late in the twelfth century. Bernart sought Lady Ena’s love. In response, she showed him her back, and then:

she put her hand behind her thigh
and showed him the hole underneath
and said “If you blow me gently here
I’ll make you my lover dear.”

{ Elha mes tras la cueissa’l man
E’l mostrèt lo trauc sotiran
E dis: “S’aicí’m cornatz de plan,
Ieu vos farai mon drut certan.” } [2]

In other words, she virtually slapped him in the face, shit all over him, and then told him to thank her for that. Bernart de Cornilh wisely said no to being so degraded in love.

Raimon de Durfort

The troubadours Truc Malec and Raimon de Durfort in response defended Lady Ena and attacked Bernart. Truc Malec declared that Bernart had wronged her body:

He dishonored it out of folly,
while I would have liked to have blown there
cheerfully, without a sad heart.

{ Celh lo soanet per foldat,
E ieu lai vòlgr’ aver cornat
Alegrament, ses còr irat. } [3]

Raimon de Durfort added that Bernart should be sexually assaulted:

Evil it will be if he isn’t forced
to blow a pregnant mare.

{ Mal estarà qui no’l destrenh
Tant que cornès un’ egua prenh. }

Underscoring the twisted world of self-abasing men, Raimon condemned Bernart for not acting like a true courtly lover:

False lady-lover, learn
from me what you don’t know.
Wrongly you have courted
a lady, and then debased yourself.

{ Fals domnejador, aprendètz
De mi aiçò que non sabètz:
Per fals vos tenc car enquerètz
Dòmna, pueis vos i sordegetz. } [4]

Under gynocentrism, men are kept dazed and confused through the use of words in a way opposite of what they actually mean. Thus a man who refuses a lady’s request to put his mouth to her anus and blow has “degraded” himself. That’s like declaring that a husband has raped his wife when she has sex with him out of love for him.[5]

Arnaut Daniel

Exquisitely skilled in the use of words, the eminent troubadour Arnaut Daniel defended Bernart de Cornilh. Arnaut gave good reasons for not putting one’s mouth to a woman’s anus:

because the anus is rough, dirty, and hairy,
and not for one day does it remain dry,
and there the swamp is mighty deep,
because the rot inside ferments it,
such that its heart flows out, then shrinks;
and I don’t want him ever to be a lover,
he who puts his mouth to the anus.

{ Que’l còrns es fèrs, laitz e pelutz
E nul jorn non estai essutz
Et es prion dins la palutz
Per que relent’ ensús lo glutz
Qu’adès per si cor ne redutz;
E non vòlh que mais sia drutz
Cel que sa boch’ al còrn condutz. } [6]

Like most men, Arnaut Daniel was first concerned for women:

There will truly be other tests,
more attractive, with greater value,
and if Bernart pulled himself away,
by Christ, he did but a knowing act,
because fear and terror seized him,
because if the stream had come from above,
it’d have scalded his neck and cheeks.
And it’s not right for a lady to kiss
a man who blows a stinking anus.

Bernart, I don’t at all agree
with the words of Raimon de Durfort
that you were ever at fault:
for if you had blown for amusement,
well you would have found a strong counterpoint,
and the smell would soon have killed you,
for manure in a garden doesn’t smell worse.
And you, despite whoever disparages you,
praise God who has delivered you.

{ Pro i agra d’autres assais,
De plus bèls que valgron mais,
E si En Bernatz s’en estrai,
Per Crist, anc-no’i fetz que savais,
Car l’en pres paors et esglais.
Car si’l vengués d’amont lo rais
Tot l’escaldèra’l còl e’l cais ;
E no’is coven que dòmna bais
Aquel qui cornès còr putnais.

Bernatz, ges eu non m’acòrt
Al dich Raimon de Durfòrt
Que vos anc mais n’aguessetz tòrt;
Que si cornavatz per depòrt,
Ben trobavatz fòrt contrafòrt,
E la pudors agra’us tòst mort,
Que peitz òlh non fa fems en órt;
E vos, qui que’us en desconòrt,
Lauzatz en Deu que’us n’a estòrt. }

These words of Arnaut Daniel should be taken seriously. Petrarch called Arnaut “the grand master of love, who in his land  / is still honored for his strange and beautiful language {gran maestro d’amor, ch’a la sua terra / ancor fa onor, col suo dir strano e bello}.”[7] In Dante’s Purgatorio, Guido Guinizelli, whom Dante regarded as his father in lyric poetry, deferred to Arnaut:

{he} was a greater craftsman of his mother tongue.
In songs of love and in the prose romance
he surpassed all. Let fools talk all they want
of the Limogian poet’s excellence —
they turn their faces more toward fame than truth,
settling their judgment by what others say
before they hear how reason rules, or art.

{ fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno.
Versi d’amore e prose di romanzi
soverchiò tutti; e lascia dir li stolti
che quel di Lemosì credon ch’avanzi
A voce più ch’al ver drizzan li volti,
e così ferman sua oppinïone
prima ch’arte o ragion per lor s’ascolti. } [8]

Boccaccio in his brilliant Corbaccio may well have drawn inspiration from Arnaut’s song. Thus the “three crowns {tre corone}” of Italian literature agree about Arnaut’s importance. Even within gynocentric society, any man should feel free to say no when a woman he hardly know asks him to put his mouth to her anus and blow.

Nonetheless, Raimon de Durfort refused to defer to Arnaut’s poetic insight. Raimon insisted that a man must serve a woman as she requests. Raimon declared:

If any noble lady in the world,
had shown me her anus and cunt,
in this way, just as they are,
and then addressed me: “Sir Raimon,
blow me here, in my rear.
I would lower my face forward,
as if seeking to drink from a spring.
A lover who thus answers his lady,
well deserves to receive her heart’s joy.

{ Non es bona dòmn’ el mon,
Si’m mostrava’l còrn e l’con
Tot atretal com ilh se son
E pueis m’apelava : ‘N Raimon,
Cornatz m’aicí sobre’l reon,
Qu’ieu no’i baissès la car’ el front
Com si volgués beure en fon:
Drutz qu’a sa dòmna aissí respon,
Ben tanh que de son còr l’aon. } [9]

Raimon declared that he would blow in the anuses of hundreds of thousands of women, even if quite a few of their anuses were foul. He also disparaged Bernart de Cornilh and his humane defender Arnaut Daniel. He sung to Bernart:

You surpass in wretchedness
even Arnaut the student,
ruined by dice and board games,
who goes around like a penitent,
poor of clothing and of cash.

{ Pus ètz malastrucs sobriers
Non es Arnautz l’escoliers,
Cui confondon dat e tauliers
E vai coma penedensiers
Paupres de draps e de deniers }

Literary writers have often been impoverished. To make matters worse, meninist literary critics today are marginalized and excluded from the schools. Speaking truthfully about men in relation to women isn’t rewarding.

Most men feel that they must do anything that women want. Yet the great medieval troubadour Arnaut Daniel recognized his responsibility to speak out against appalling debasement of men. More writers today should do likewise. Men must acquire the learning necessary to know to say no to women.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:

Notes:

[1] Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Provence {Coms de Proensa} and Arnaut Catalan, “Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage {Friend Sir Arnaut, a hundred ladies of rank}” (tenso), st. 1, Occitan text and English translation of Ruth Harvey (modified) via Rialto. Gatti (2017) provides a slightly different text and an Italian translation. The subsequent three quotes are seriatim from this song and cover all of it.

A related tenso between Arnaut and King Alfonso X of Castile (Alfonso X the Wise) concerns sailing with farts. Arnaut petitioned the king to be named what might rightly be called a Rear Admiral:

My lord, I come now to ask
you for a boon, if you please:
I’d like to be your admiral
over the bounding seas.
If you grant me this, in all good faith
I promise to drive your entire fleet
with the force of a windy fart,
and they’ll sail with astonishing speed!

{ Senher abatyons conven quer
un don que·m donez, si vos play
que vulh vostr’almiral seer
en cela vostra mar da lay.
E sy o faz, en bona fe,
c’a totas las naus que la son a
eu les faray tal vent de me
c’or anon totas a bandon. }

“Senher abatyons conven quer, {alternately} Sénher, adars ie ‘us venh querer {My lord, I come now to ask},” st. 1, Occitan text from Gatti (2017), English translation from Paden & Paden (2007) p. 187; Gatti provides an Italian translation. Here’s an alternate Occitan text.

King Alfonse granted Arnaut’s petition and declared him (Rear) “Admiral Gas {Almiral Sisom}.” In gratitude, Arnaut promised a wind that would bring his lady and a hundred other women to King Alfonse. But King Alfonse objected to sending ladies with farting:

He is no true lover who intends
to manufacture such a wind!

{ que non é bon doneador
quen esto fezer a cyente. }

St. 4, ll. 7-8, sourced as previously. This song seems to allude to “Amics N’Arnauz, cent domnas de parage.” In addition, both troubadours “play upon the specific metrical form and rhymes from the song of the lark by Bernart Ventadorn, ‘Qan vei la lauzeta mover {When I see the lark beat his winds},’ reducing it to a scurrilous mockery involving a bird (sison {francolin}) that was famous for flatulence.” Paden & Paden (2007) p. 187, reference omitted and bird name added. The analysis of Gatti (2007) supports attributing this poem in part to Arnaut Catalan.

[2] Raimon de Durfort, “Truc Malèc, a vos me tenh {Truc Malec, I hold on to you},” 2.6-9, Occitan text from Martínez Malo (2005), English translation (modified) from trobar. This song is the second in a temporal series of four songs concerning what has come to be known as the Cornilh Affair. The second, third, and fourth poems in the series are Truc Malec, “En Raimon, be’us tenc a grat {Sir Raimon, I am in your debt}“; Arnaut Daniel, “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs {Though Raimon and Truc Malec}“; and Raimon de Durfort, “Ben es malastrucs dolens {He is rather unhappy and afflicted}.” Martínez Malo (2005) pp. 84-93 provides Occitan text and Spanish translation for all four. Trobar provides Occitan text and English translation for all four, to which the titles are linked. All quotes above from songs in this series are sourced as above, except where otherwise noted. The songs refer to Bernart de Cornilh. He was from Cercina, a rural borough of Florence.

According to Taylor summarizing Lazzerini (1981), “there is no doubt that corn has the clear meaning of cul.” Taylor (2015) p. 345. Lazzerini (1989) further analyzes another reference to the ass.

Truc (Turc) Malec sung in the late twelfth century. Taylor (2015) p. 524. Raimon de Durfort must be from the same time. Neither is known apart from this sequence of songs and their joint vida:

Raimon de Durfort and Lord Turc Malec were two knights from Quercy who composed the sirventes about the lady called Milady Aia, the one who said to the knight of Cornil that she would not love him if he did not blow in her arse. And here are written the sirventes.

{ Raimons de Dufort e·N Turc Malec si foron du cavallier de Caersi que feiren los sirventes de la domna que ac nom ma donna n’Aia, aquella que dis al cavalier de Cornil qu’ella no l’amaria si el no la cornava el cul. Et aqui son escritz los sirventes. }

Egan (1984) pp. 31-2.

[3] Truc Malec, “En Raimon, be’us tenc a grat {Sir Raimon, I am in your debt}” ll. 7-9.

[4] Raimon de Durfort, “Truc Malèc, a vos me tenh {Truc Malec, I hold on to you},” st. 6 (final stanza).

[5] Jewers similarly asserts:

In essence, troubadour lyric betrays a configuration of power and gender that privileges the male, while it reifies and objectifies the female. … The lesson of the affaire Cornilh has something to teach us about the nature and status of the counter-text: it lays bare the rank misogyny underlying and underpinning the lyric system and exploits it to a comically absurd degree, demystifying the male subject as well as it cruelly lays bare the female object.

Jewers (2002) pp. 37, 43. For a frank confession of this game, Dummitt (2019).

[6] Arnaut Daniel, “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs {Though Raimon and Truc Malec},” 2.3-9, with English translation of this song benefitting from that of Wilhelm (1981) pp. 75-7 and trobar. Here’s a modern French translation. The subsequent quote is similarly st. 2-3.

According to his vida, Arnaut Daniel was born of a noble family living at the castle of Ribérac in the department of Dordogne. He studied Latin, but gave up that study to compose Occitan songs as a joglar {minstrel}. He apparently was active from about 1180 to 1195. Paden & Paden (2007) p. 114. Arnaut’s songs “represent the pinnacle of  trobar clus, the art of ‘closed compositions’ in which the sense of the song is disguised with elaborate patterns of rhyme and versification.” Id. Arnaut is credited with having invented a complex poetic form, the sestina. About nineteen of his songs, two with melodies, have survived.

Arnaut was a courageous poet willing to challenge men’s unlimited subservience to women. In his song “En cest sonet coind’e leri {In this little song, pretty and joyful},” Arnaut declared:

I am Arnaut, who hoards the wind
and chases the rabbit with the ox
and swims against the swelling tide.

{ Ieu sui Arnautz q’amàs l’aura,
E chatz la lebre ab lo bou
E nadi contra suberna. }

Occitan text and English translation from Wilhelm (1981) pp. 42-3. Paden & Paden (2007) pp. 117-8 offers an alternate translation, as does James H. Donalson (2003). Here’s a modern French translation of Pèire Bec (2012).

Lacking Arnaut’s concern for social justice, the famous sophist Jacques Lacan quoted Arnaut’s “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs” in full and used it in his attempt to kiss the ass of dominant ideology. He thus gained a pungent insight:

Having been the focus of attacks by feminists during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Lacan sought a way to ensure that his theory would reinforce, rather than contradict, the feminist agenda. His own efforts in this realm led him to the conclusion that there is no possible sexual relationship.

Labbie (2006) p. 97. Lacan could have supported his claim “there is no sexual relationship” by surveying married men or discussing Margery Kempe’s husband. Instead Lacan discussed at length the gap, explored what slipped out from there, and signified it throughout his work.

[7] Petrarch, Triumphus Cupidinis 4.41-2, cited and translated in Kay (2016) p. 155, n. 3.

[8] Dante, Commedia, Purgatorio 26.117-23, Italian text from the Princeton Dante Project, English translation (modified slightly) from Esolen (2004). The Limogian poet is the troubadour Guirant de Bornelh, who sung in late-twelfth and early-thirteenth century Provence.

Regarding Arnaut’s “Pòis Raimons e’N Truc Malècs,” the eminent Dante scholar Paget Toynbee comically couldn’t even bring himself to name it explicitly:

The tenor of one of these {of Arnaut’s songs}, which forms part of a poetical controversy with two other troubadours concerning the conduct of a certain lady, sufficiently accounts for the place in Purgatory assigned to him by D. {Dante}.

Toynbee (1898) p. 50, entry for “Arnaldo Daniello {Arnaut Daniel}.”

[9] Raimon de Durfort, “Ben es malastrucs dolens {He is rather unhappy and afflicted},” st. 2. The subsequent is st. 4.1-5.

[images] (1) Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Barcelona, detail from portrait of Queen Petronila of Aragon and Count Ramon Berenguier IV of Barcelona. The latter isn’t the same person as Raimon Berenguier IV, Count of Provence. Painting made in 1634, original of Filippo Ariosto (1586). Preserved as acccession # P005881 in the Museo del Prado (Spain). (2) Illuminated initial with Raimon de Durfort. Vida of Turc Malec and Raimon de Durfort in text on top. Folio 186v in Recueil des poésies des troubadours, contenant leurs vies. Made in the thirteenth century. Preserved as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) Ms. 854. (3) Illuminated initial with Arnaut Daniel. From folio 65r in BnF Ms. 854.

References:

Dummitt, Christopher. 2019. “‘I Basically Just Made It Up’: Confessions of a Social Constructionist.” Quillette. Sept. 17.

Egan, Margarita. 1984. The Vidas of the Troubadours. Garland Library of Medieval Literature: series B: translations, 6. New York: Garland Pub.

Esolen, Anthony M., trans. 2004. Dante Alighieri. Purgatory {second section of the Divine Comedy}. New York: Modern Library.

Gatti, Luca. 2017. “Tra Arnaldi e protettori: edizioni e prospettive critiche di due tenzoni scatologiche (BdT 184,1 e T 21,1).” Pp. 85-94 in Isabel De Riquer, Dominique Billy, Giovanni Palumbo, eds. Actes du XXVIIe Congrès international de linguistique et de philologie romanes (Nancy, 15-20 juillet 2013), Section 14: Littératures médiévales.

Jewers, Caroline. 2002. “The Cornilh Affair: Obscenity and the Counter-text in the Occitan Troubadours, or, the Gift of the Gap.” Mediterranean Studies. 11: 29-43.

Kay, Tristan. 2016. Dante’s Lyric Redemption: eros, salvation, vernacular tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Labbie, Erin Felicia. 2006. Lacan’s Medievalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lazzerini, Lucia. 1981-83. “Cornar lo corn: sulla tenzone tra Raimon de Durfort, Truc Malec e Arnaut Danielm.” Medioevo Romanzo 8: 339–70.

Lazzerini, Lucia. 1989. “Postilla al corn: raboi.” Medioevo Romanzo 14: 39–50.

Martínez Malo, Jesús. 2005. “Cornatz lo còrn.” Litoral: école lacanienne de psychanalyse, L’amour Lacan II. 36: 49-98.

Paden, William D., and Frances Freeman Paden, trans. 2007. Troubadour Poems from the South of France. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

Taylor, Robert A. 2015. A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Troubadours and Old Occitan Literature. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University.

Toynbee, Paget Jackson. 1898. A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wilhelm, James J., ed. and trans. 1981. The Poetry of Arnaut Daniel. New York: Garland Publ.

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